Making It Easy To Be Homeless

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 21, 2010

Is homelessness a permanent condition for our community?

Idea after idea, proposal after proposal, law after law ...

Yet none of these has mitigated the presence of the homeless nor solved the condition which ails them. You may not agree with the comparison, but just as the pursuit of a cure for cancer has the brightest minds and virtual unlimited sources of money attacking this disease for generations, there is still no cure. Similarly, homelessness has been an issue for, yes, generations and we still have yet to find resolution.

Now, don’t misconstrue. I applaud those who are dedicated and passionate in their advocacy for the homeless.


 

I also believe there is merit is some of the innovative strategies intended to eliminate homelessness in our community.

But unless we employ a more precise and aggressive policy, we will never “cure” homelessness.

A recent story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that three state representatives toured homeless emcampments in Waikiki. That Reps. Tom Brower, Rida Cabinilla and John Mizuno actually visited one of these sites should be applauded.

That said, their proposal for an “outdoor safe zone” misses the mark.

The proposal would create a designated area where homeless would find safe haven from harassment and have a location where restrooms, showers and lockers would be made available. According to Rep. Cabinilla, “We have to do something.”

Ostensibly, this idea is born from good intentions without deliberation of consequence.

Details of how this will be accomplished are sketchy. There is a pursuit of donated land in proximity to Kapiolani Park, but nothing has been solidified. If donated land is not available, then public lands would be the logical option. The use of public land changes the game. Many taxpayers may take umbrage that the state would appropriate land to be used purposefully for the homeless and not for the general public. And they would have a point.

If the government provides a comfort area near Waikiki and provides various forms of financial assistance, then where is the incentive for people to transition? By our actions, are we not accepting homlessness as an inevitable part of communal landscape? Aren’t we giving our stamp of approval by creating “Hoovervilles” for the 21st Century? Is it ignorance or blindness that advances policies that have not worked in the past? Do we recall the travails of Aala Park and the subsequent experiences of relocating the homeless to the property of local artist Diana Hansen-Young? The enabled congregation of homeless outdoors is doomed to failure due a record of resistance to comply with necessary conditions of use.

The proposed “safe zone” reportedly will accommodate those “who refuse to live in shelters or abide by shelter rules.”


So we are to meet the demands of of a constituency that refuses services when offered and available?

If you are homeless and functional, it’s encumbant upon you to participate in alternative programs. Why? Because it’s not just about you and your desires. It’s about what’s best for the common good. Open public lands are not your own lawn or front yard. We all have a right to use these resources as they were intended.

The repatriation of homeless to their points of origin is a good, fundamental policy.

A panacea? No, but if we are looking for a pragmatic solution, a one-way ticket back home will ultimately do more to alleviate the demands on our already distressed system.

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